14 Showstopping Facts About Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli performs on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992.
Liza Minnelli performs on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992. / Paul Natkin/Getty Images

When a young Liza Minnelli performed with her mother, Judy Garland, at the London Palladium in 1964, it was immediately clear that the musical theater industry had another explosive star on its hands. Before long, she was winning Tony Awards, topping music charts, and working with some of Hollywood’s greatest talents—including Bob Fosse, who helped launch Minnelli's career into super-stardom with his film adaptation of Cabaret in 1972. Read more about the legendary triple threat below.

1. Liza Minnelli was named after a song by George and Ira Gerswhin.

On March 12, 1946, Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli welcomed their first and only child together, Liza May Minnelli. They named her after “Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away),” a song that George and Ira Gershwin created with Gus Kahn for the 1929 Ziegfeld production, Show Girl. Garland dedicated a radio performance of the song to an 8-month-old Minnelli as a lullaby, and later covered it on The Judy Garland Show. It was also briefly played during the overture for their mother-daughter performance at the London Palladium in November 1964.

2. Liza Minnelli made her screen debut at 3 years old.

Though Minnelli had already been on screen before she was born (Garland was pregnant with her while filming 1946’s Till the Clouds Roll By), she made her official film debut at age 3, playing the daughter of Garland’s character, Veronica, in 1949’s In the Good Old Summertime.

3. Liza Minnelli is the only child of two Academy Award winners to ever win an Oscar herself.

Liza Minnelli with her parents, Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland, in Hollywood in the late 1940s.
Liza Minnelli with her parents, Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland, in Hollywood in the late 1940s. / KM Archive/Getty Images

Minnelli had inherited her mother’s dynamite singing chops and an unparalleled flair for theatrics, and she had nabbed a Best Actress Tony for starring in 1965’s Flora and the Red Menace by the time she was 19 years old. Eight years later, she took home a Best Actress Oscar for 1972’s Cabaret, making her the first and only winner whose parents have also both won Oscars. Her mother had been given the now-defunct Academy Juvenile Award in 1939 for her performances in The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms, and her father had won Best Director for 1958’s Gigi.

4. Liza Minnelli is an EGOT—sort of.

After Minnelli and director/choreographer Bob Fosse finished filming Cabaret, they immediately teamed up again for a made-for-television concert film called Liza With a Z, which won both of them an Emmy for Outstanding Single Program (Fosse also took home the awards for choreography and direction) in 1973. Fosse died one Grammy short of joining the EGOT club, but Minnelli kind of became a member in 1990 when the Recording Academy honored her with a Grammy Legend Award. Since it’s a non-competitive award, however, some people don’t count it.

5. Liza Minnelli auditioned for the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway and didn’t get it.

When Minnelli lost out on the stage role of Sally Bowles to British triple threat Jill Haworth, she wasn’t upset. “I knew I’d get the movie for some reason,” she told HuffPost. “I remember saying to myself, ‘That’s all right, I’ll do the film.'” With Minnelli’s choppy dark hair, spidery lashes, and pronounced American accent, she created a version of the histrionic cabaret star that was distinctly set apart from Haworth’s.

6. Liza Minnelli’s godmother is Kay Thompson, author of the Eloise series.

Before penning the perennially popular Eloise series of children’s books, Kay Thompson was, ironically, a tremendously successful cabaret performer. She was also a vocal coach to Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, a show-stealing actor alongside Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in 1957’s Funny Face, and godmother to the daughter of her close friend, Judy Garland. Minnelli paid tribute to the woman she called her “sophisticated fairy godmother” by recreating parts of Thompson’s legendary nightclub act in her 2008 Broadway concert Liza’s at the Palace.

7. Liza Minnelli voiced Dorothy in the animated sequel to The Wizard of Oz.

Minnelli continued her mother’s legacy by giving voice to Dorothy in Journey Back to Oz, in which Dorothy and Toto must save Oz from a new evil witch, Mombi, played by Ethel Merman. Most of the cast—including a then-15-year-old Minnelli—had recorded their lines in 1962, but issues with an inexperienced animation company halted production, and the film wasn’t released until 1974. By then, of course, Minnelli was already a seasoned superstar.

8. Liza Minnelli was married to Jack Haley, Jr., whose father played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

Liza Minnelli with then-husband Jack Haley, Jr. in 1975.
Liza Minnelli with then-husband Jack Haley, Jr. in 1975. / Maureen Donaldson/Liaison

The year 1974 turned out to be an Oz-some one for Minnelli. In addition to her Dorothy debut, she also married producer Jack Haley, Jr., whose father starred as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. In 1977, Minnelli briefly appeared on screen with her father-in-law in Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, in which Haley introduces Minnelli’s character at an awards ceremony. It was Haley’s last film role; he passed away in 1979, the same year that Minnelli and Haley, Jr. divorced.

9. Liza Minnelli successfully avoided singing “Over the Rainbow” for most of her career.

Though Minnelli didn’t exactly stay off the Yellow Brick Road, she did steer clear of a certain seminal song of her mother’s: “Over the Rainbow.” “It’s been sung,” she told the Miami Herald. “I don’t like when anybody sings it.” She has, however, indulged our nostalgic tendencies at least twice, performing the song on The Hedda Hopper Show at age 13 in 1960, and again for the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration television special in 2001.

10. Liza Minnelli’s recording of “New York, New York,” used to be played at Yankee Stadium after every loss.

Frank Sinatra’s characteristically crooning rendition of “New York, New York” might be the most famous version of the song these days, but Minnelli’s actually came first. John Kander and Fred Ebb created the song for her character to sing in 1977’s New York, New York. Yankee Stadium adopted both versions in 1980, blasting Sinatra’s tune after wins and Minnelli’s version after losses. The tradition continued for more than two decades, until a miffed Minnelli gave management an ultimatum in 2001: Play her number after a win, or don’t play it at all. They took the second option, and now Sinatra’s voice booms through the stadium after every game.

11. Liza Minnelli sang on My Chemical Romance’s 2006 album The Black Parade.

You can hear Minnelli’s recognizable warble toward the end of “Mama,” a Goth circus anthem on My Chemical Romance’s 2006 album The Black Parade. It was lead singer Gerard Way’s idea to feature her on the track. “I love Liza Minnelli,” Way told The New York Times. “Black Parade was very theatrical, and we had this song 'Mama,' and I said, 'You know, it would be really great in this one part to get Liza.'” The producer asked her, she agreed, and soon Way was meeting her through the mixing board—the band was recording in Los Angeles, while Minnelli sang her piece from New York. In a later interview with PennLive, Minnelli called the experience “wonderful” and said Way was “as smart as a whip.”

12. Doctors said Liza Minnelli would never walk or talk again after contracting viral encephalitis.

Minnelli celebrates her return to performing in 2002.
Minnelli celebrates her return to performing in 2002. / Scott Gries/Getty Images

When Minnelli was hospitalized for severe brain inflammation in 2000, she was told she’d never walk or talk—let alone grace a stage—again. Undeterred, she immediately began practicing the alphabet, and rehearsed herself back to health with a steady schedule of singing and dancing. By 2002, the 56-year-old living legend was off to Europe to tour a new show, aptly named Liza’s Back!

13. Liza Minnelli used to babysit Ron Howard, who later cast her in Arrested Development.

Liza Minnelli as "Lucille Two" opposite Jason Bateman's Michael Bluth in season 4 of Arrested Development.
Liza Minnelli as "Lucille Two" opposite Jason Bateman's Michael Bluth in season 4 of Arrested Development. / Netflix

Decades after Minnelli babysat Ron Howard, he phoned her to ask if she’d be willing to guest star in a wacky little sitcom he produced. The show, of course, was Arrested Development. And the role was even wackier: Lucille Austero (more commonly known as “Lucille Two”), the vertigo-plagued nemesis of Lucille Bluth. Minnelli accepted the role and played it to perfection intermittently throughout several seasons, to great acclaim. “I just love doing it,” she told Today.

14. Eight different actors have impersonated Liza Minnelli on Saturday Night Live.

Much to the disappointment of the musical theater/sketch comedy crossover contingent of fans, Minnelli has never once hosted Saturday Night Live (though she did make a memorable cameo as the best friend of Kristen Wiig’s character Penelope in 2009). Between 1987 and 2017, a total of eight women debuted their best Liza Minnelli impressions on the 30 Rock stage, including Nora Dunn, Rosie O’Donnell, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, Cecily Strong, and, of course, Kristen Wiig. As Wiig demonstrates in 2012’s “Liza Minnelli Tries to Turn Off a Lamp,” it only takes one Liza Minnelli to turn off a lamp ... but it takes a while.